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Suit: I Was Pressured to Move Seats Because I'm a Woman

Passenger sues EasyJet over encounters with Orthodox Jews
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 28, 2020 7:00 AM CDT

(Newser) – A British-Israeli woman is suing EasyJet for discrimination after she says she was twice asked to move seats because of her gender. Melanie Wolfson, 38, says she paid extra for an aisle seat on an October flight from Tel Aviv to London only to be asked to move seats by an Orthodox Jewish man and his son in the same row who refused to sit next to a female passenger, per the Guardian. Wolfson, "insulted and humiliated," initially refused their request for her to switch seats with a man nearby. "I would not have had any problem whatsoever switching seats if it were to allow members of a family or friends to sit together, but the fact that I was being asked to do this because I was a woman was why I refused," she tells Haaretz. "It was the first time in my adult life that I was discriminated against for being a woman." However, Wolfson eventually caved as she feared the flight might be delayed.

Wolfson says flight attendants had offered a free hot drink as an incentive, telling her that women were often asked to move to accommodate Orthodox men. Two months later, on another EasyJet flight along the same route, Wolfson says two Orthodox men made the same request of her and flight attendants again offered the drink. She declined, and two women agreed to switch seats with the men. The suit, seeking $20,000, is backed by the Israel Religious Action Center, which in 2017 won a similar case against the country's El Al Airlines. The Israeli judge ruled that a crew member couldn't ask a passenger to move "because the adjacent passenger doesn't want to sit next to them due to their gender." Lawyers will argue that EasyJet was subject to Israel's anti-discrimination laws while at Ben-Gurion airport. In a statement, EasyJet says it does "not discriminate on any grounds." (Read more gender discrimination stories.)

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